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TRAVEL OFF-ROAD: Slow Ways breakthrough!

Updated: Jun 17

Scores of North East volunteers have "joined the dots" to create an unbroken route of Slow Ways, stretching from Edinburgh to Plymouth. Over a busy weekend, their boots were made for walking and wheeling! Their collective effort completed the routes needed to fill the gaps, and pass a new milestone for the online network that's gradually connecting UK cities, towns and hamlets.


Climate Action Newcastle supporters found out about Slow Ways at our April meeting, thanks to a presentation by our Green Heart collective friend, Andy Redfern. He'd got in touch to appeal for volunteers, because Tyneside, Northumberland and Durham had been slow to catch on to the Slow Ways movement. A big push was organised in June 2024 to fill the gaps; in a fantastic show of support, more than enough off-roaders responded to the call for action. The ambition to complete the Edinburgh-Plymouth chain was achieved, and dozens more routes were added, towards the 9506 target (check the latest figure here).

A celebration event at the Star & Shadow in Newcastle heard Slow Ways founder Dan Raven-Ellison fire the imagination over connecting "spaces" and "places".

He described the many ways walking and wheeling enric our lives. A stroll or ride can nurture creativity, console grief, bring us closer to nature, promote deeper conversations ... plus of course, boost physical health and reduce reliance on energy-burning vehicles, This article is an inspiring summary.

The process for feedback (with information and pictures) to the Slow Ways organisation is also a great way to broaden the chances of a wider range of people to benefit from the online network. Volunteers walk or wheel over potential routes, then sent short reports. Once three "verifications" have been supplied, each walk is added to the online map. As well as sending information about any barriers or hazards, we can send suggestions for ways the route could be made easier for people to use.



A debut Slow Ways walk by two CAN supporters gives examples of what they spotted on their verification walk. A bus ride away from Durham, they covered four miles between Willington and Brandon.

They were impressed to see dog walkers, families on bikes, a mobility bike (with dog), cyclists, joggers, and groups of all ages. Benches appeared frequently, and there were abundant scented wild borders and hedgerows, buzzing with insect life.

A sudden spring shower created drama as cows with very young calves dashed for cover. It was well signposted, but the one hazard was a busy road to be crossed - the line of sight was not great due to bends, so additional signage to request motorists to slow down was suggested, to reduce worry and danger at that one "weak point" of the route.


The experience was boosted by a surprise treat at one end - a rather special coffee shop. Two biology graduates from Brazil had created their own coffee roaster, importing beans from Colombia as well as Brazil.

They've opened this cosy outlet, so we can taste the results of their skills. Coffea was welcoming and - you won't be surprised to hear - had delicious coffee! It was fun to get to know how they'd built their business and their plans for the future. And very handy that they're right by the bus stop at the start of the walk route in Willington.

The birth of the Slow Ways movement lay in the 2020 lockdown. Hundreds of volunteers headed out whenever the relaxations of lockdown rules allowed them to test out routes. Slow Ways will be updating and improving its online webpages before the end of 2024. This is definitely one to watch!


 *** FANCY HELPING EXPAND THE NETWORK? 

  • Study the online map and select an unverified route

  • Or you can offer an new route that doesn't appear yet

  • This webpage outlines how you can get involved, as a group or individuals

  • There are online welcome sessions: check here

  • For info or to help work out how to use the online site - Dan Barron is incredibly helpful! He can be contact via his email.


*** OTHER ORGANISATIONS WE CAN USE TO SUPPORT OUR SLOW WAYS PLANNING


*** ARTICLES ABOUT SLOW WAYS

Here’s a selection of news stories about Slow Ways:

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